This month: the balance of offline and online retail, where sports sponsorship succeeds and the growing popularity of ad blocking.

81% of consumers are omnichannel shoppers as in-store retains advantages

E-commerce sales grew rapidly last year but the overwhelming majority of consumers are omnichannel shoppers and have likely been attracted by in-store retail’s advantages.

Data from YouGov shows that 81% of consumers had purchased from both online and offline channels in the past 90 days. This rises even higher in China (91%) and Poland (85%).

The emergence of new purchase and delivery options is also blurring the distinction between online and offline retail – 'buy online for pickup in store' has grown rapidly over the past year and allows retailers to engage their audience a second time.

For example, recent data show how more than half (53%) of online grocery shoppers in the United States used the pickup method for their order in March 2021, overtaking the ship-to-home method (49%) in popularity.

A key reason for the continued use of in-store shopping is the advantages physical retail has over online channels, one of which is product discovery. Across 13 markets in Asia Pacific, 53% of adults say it is easier to find new brands and products when shopping in-store than when online. This rises even higher in India (77%), Thailand (63%) and Indonesia (60%).

Digital packaging can play an important role in overcoming this, as it can help brands to stand out and creatively engage their audience.

However, understanding the quality of products online also remains a challenge. Nearly three-quarters of adults in Asia Pacific agree that this is difficult, rising to 81% in India and 80% in Singapore and the Philippines. There is therefore clear consumer demand for in-store retail.

As a result, the focus for retailers and brand should be on integrating online and offline touchpoints into a single customer experience. For example, NikePlus members can unlock rewards and experiences both in-app and in-store, helping build loyalty online and offline.

Millennials prove most engaged with sports sponsorship

With the Euro 2020 football tournament underway and the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, sports sponsorship has returned to prominence and the latest research from GWI suggests millennials are those most engaged.

Almost half (46%) of millennial Olympic fans said they would purchase a brand or product if the brand sponsored their favourite sports league or team, the highest share across age groups. Gen Z (37%) and Gen X (34%) follow, while Baby Boomers appear far less engaged at just 17%.

However, the type of sponsorship plays an important role – shirt sponsorship drives the highest level of awareness among fans, with LED boards around the pitch/stadium placing second.

Although advertisers may be hesitant to make this investment as sports sponsorship often comes with a high price tag, major sporting events like the Olympics provide a clear opportunity to stand out. GWI data suggest around 30% to 50% of internet users aged 16-64 are sports fans, suggesting a clear opportunity for brands to engage a broad audience.

To maximise any sponsorship investment, though, brands will need to engage with a changing landscape of sports consumption. Short-form content and social media platforms are becoming more important and offer brands a way to target different demographics.

For example, sports is one of the most popular categories of content on TikTok and the social app has announced an audience partnership with European football association UEFA for the Euro 2020 tournament.

While greater flexibility in sponsorship marketing is also becoming a priority for some brands, others are investing more and becoming stakeholders in the sport rather than just sponsors. This could offer clear value if the sport has so far been under-utilised by brands, for example with women's competitions.

Ad blocking reaches 843m users worldwide but solutions gain popularity

Ad blocking has reached new highs worldwide and so have some potential solutions, but the issue is less of a priority in an uncertain 2020 and 2021.

More than 800m users worldwide now use ad blocking software following growth on mobile and desktop devices, according to data from ad blocking revenue recovery company Blockthrough.

This growth has largely been driven by the increased adoption of mobile web browsers that block ads by default, with UC Browser being the most widely adopted at 310m users worldwide. Increased PC usage as some audiences worked from home during the pandemic has also led to an increase in desktop ad blocking for the first time since 2018.

Interruptive ad formats are one of the key reasons for ad blocking, while additional research suggests that younger and male audiences are more likely to use an ad blocker.

WARC Data’s latest figures, in partnership with GWI, show that ad blocking is highest in Asia Pacific, with 45.7% of the online population using the software in the past month. This rises even higher for some markets in the region, with more than half of internet users in Indonesia, Malaysia and India saying they use an ad blocker.

Latin America follows in second at 43.1% with North America close behind at 41.5%. Just under two-fifths of the online population in Europe say they use an ad blocker (38.6%), followed by 35.8% in the Middle East and Africa.

Solutions are emerging, though, and are becoming more popular.

Blockthrough adds that user opt-ins for Acceptable Ads, a method for publishers to engage ad blocking users with light, consented advertising, has grown rapidly. At the end of 2020, 218m ad blocking users had opted-in to Acceptable Ads, up 54% from the beginning of 2019.

In the United States, 63% of the top 100 publishers use an ad blocking monetisation strategy, with Acceptable Ads proving most popular.

Brands should take notice as a lighter ad load may prove more effective at engaging audiences, as ‘too many ads’ is the most damaging factor for brands according to consumers.

However, the issue of ad blocking is unlikely to be resolved soon as marketers are more focused on other concerns. WARC’s latest research shows data privacy and measurement being the two main issues for practitioners at the moment. Ad blocking, instead, is the sixth most reported barrier to mobile marketing growth and likely not a key priority in a rapidly changing 2020 and 2021.

WARC Data clients can access the latest media consumption, second screening and ad blocking data across 47 markets here.